Food For the Soul
Half an Hour a Day
Part of the Torah portion Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:250) deals with the Shema.
Shema is a fundamental prayer – the only part of the daily prayers, in fact, whose recitation is biblically mandatory – because it contains many fundamentals of our religion, such as belief in G-d’s unity and the precepts of love and awe for G-d. A number of the more well-known mitzvot such as tefillin and mezuzah are also mentioned, as is the commandment to study Torah and teach it to our children. In fact, these mitzvot are so important that they are mentioned in both the first and second paragraphs of the Shema. However, there is a seemingly superficial difference.
In the first paragraph we are told: “teach [words of Torah] to your children” and then we are told: “bind them… upon your arm”; while in the second paragraph we are instructed: “bind them… upon your arm” and only then are we told: “teach them to your children.” What is the significance behind this change in wording?
The mitzvah of educating our children in the ways of the Torah begins as soon as they are born, well before they are obligated to put on tefillin. However, the Torah does not stop there. While the first paragraph of Shema puts the education before the tefillin, the second paragraph mentions education after tefillin. The moral? Even after children reach maturity, even after their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, it is still the parents’ responsibility to teach them Torah.
Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch once said: “Just as it is incumbent on every Jew to put on tefillin every day, so too it is an unequivocal duty on every individual, from the greatest scholar to the most simple of folk, to set aside a half-hour each day in which to think about the education of their children.”
Edited from an article by Rabbi Eli Pink
The comfort of G-d’s love
Haftarot are portions from the books of prophecy, read after the Torah portion. This week’s haftarah is the second of a series of seven “haftarot of Consolation.” These seven haftarot begin on the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av (called Shabbat Nachamu) and continue until Rosh Hashanah. The haftarah offers comfort when we don’t always feel G-d’s presence in our lives; when we call out “G-d are You there? Have you forgotten me? I need your embrace!” G-d reassures us that He has not forsaken us. He compares His love to that of a mother to her baby, a relationship expressing the most intense love and compassion. G-d promises us, too, that very soon, we will witness a different time. “For the L-rd shall console Zion, He shall console all its ruins, and He shall make its desert like a paradise and its wasteland like the garden of the L-rd; joy and happiness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and a voice of song” (Isaiah 51:2-3) May it happen now!
Edited from an article by Chana Weisberg
Mind Over Matter
Don’t be impressed
Remember that the first step in leaving the exile is to stop being impressed by it. In order to redeem our land and our people, we must first redeem our own souls and our own self-respect. May we never forget where our true strength lies. When we remember who took us out of Egypt and led us through the wilderness, and who is truly the great and awesome Being of Beings, then we will be able to truly walk tall and stand proud forever.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Challenges and impudence
Eikev, the name of the parshah, is also the term that describes ikveta de’Meshicha, the period right before the coming of Moshiach. Our sages foretold that in this period, “each day’s curse will be worse than that of the preceding day.” Why would they tell us so somber a prophecy? If we had not been foretold about this situation, the Jewish people might have become dispirited and lost hope. The Torah thus informed us that the final stage of the galut will be terribly perplexing and frustrating, in order that we take heart, keep faith, and strengthen our service of G-d with greater effort in the full knowledge and conviction that the redemption is about to happen! We are also foretold that in ikveta de’Meshicha impudence (chutzpah) will increase. Chutzpah should be utilized in a positive way: persistently asking and demanding of G-d that Moshiach should appear and redeem us. There is no doubt that G-d is pleased with this kind of “impudent” demand and will respond to it accordingly.
Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Manna: Food of Starvation
A family friend once told me that she would notice a peculiar quirk whenever her father-in-law, a Holocaust survivor, would stay at her house. Every night before retiring to bed, Zeide would wander into the kitchen and unobtrusively check out the contents of her pantry. If there was bread on the shelf, he’d relax and head off to his bedroom. But if there was none, he would invariably leave the house to buy a loaf. He never made a big fuss about it, and she does not remember whether he ever explicitly said that he could not go to sleep unless there was bread in the house, but that was his custom.
Obviously, his war experience influenced this behavior. We who have never been really hungry cannot possibly fathom the effect of the years of privation that he and his generation suffered in the ghettos and camps. But I can imagine, in an abstract sense, the anxiety of never really knowing where one’s next meal is coming from.
We find a parallel concept in this week’s Torah reading. The manna that fell from heaven throughout the 40 years in the desert is referred to by the Midrash as “starvation food.” On the face of it, this doesn’t seem to make sense. The manna was the food of miracles, falling every day and feeding the nation. Every single person received an exact portion, sized to satiate one’s hunger, and it had the miraculous property of tasting like whichever food one desired. What could be more satisfying than that?
However, on reflection, it’s understandable that if you had to rely on a daily miracle to eat, you’d always feel hungry. Imagine going to bed every night for 40 years nervously wondering if G-d would send food again the next day. You might have been fed today, but how confident would you be of the next day’s sustenance? You’d always be thinking about food.
It is interesting to note, however, that in the first blessing of Grace After Meals, we quote the words “You shall eat, be satisfied and bless the L-rd your G-d,” which according to our tradition is a reference to the manna.
Now, that’s really strange. Is the manna satisfying or not? Is it the bread of starvation or the food that fills you up? How can one foodstuff, miraculous as it may be, be variously described in such different ways?
Because the feelings a person has towards the manna are influenced by his perspective on life and his relationship with G-d. From one perspective, the food you buy with the money you’ve earned is far more satisfying than the potential manna still to fall from heaven. Your resources are measurable and quantifiable, and you can relax in the knowledge that you have enough to eat today. However, from another perspective, the money you’ve got right now and the food that you can buy with it is limited. There is only so much that you will ever be able to achieve on your own.
G-d, however, is infinite and has unlimited resources to share. No matter how difficult it is now and how tough your current circumstances, you can feel confident that things can and will improve. Even in times of loss and suffering, you can look forward to a better tomorrow, with hope and confidence that G-d will provide the resources for your salvation. The manna that comes to us as a gift directly from G-d is the truest and most satisfying food one can possibly receive. And the sprinkling of G-dliness that falls in our life is the daily bread of faith that sustains our body and spirit forever.
Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum